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Oregon Domestic Violence Charges: Can I get the charges dropped?

December 19th, 2013 by Daniel Woram

Can I get the domestic violence charges dropped? 

After over 20 years practicing as a criminal defense lawyer, this is one of the most common questions I am asked in these kinds of cases.

The short answer is, “No”. But this question is really twofold, namely:

1. “If the victim does not wish to press charges against me, will the prosecutor dismiss the case?”

2. “Can the charges be dropped any other way?”

These questions are taken in turn.

1. No, probably not. In a great number of cases, the prosecutor proceeds with the charges even though the alleged victim urges them not to prosecute. It happens all the time. As far as the state is concerned, the “victim” is a mere witness, rather than a person who can choose to hold up prosecution or no longer wishes to cooperate with the state. Further, prosecutors are able to use a number of special evidentiary rules for domestic violence cases to their advantage, which make the ongoing cooperation of the victim less important. Thus, the victim has no “veto-like” power over the decision to prosecute. The case will probably move forward.

2. Perhaps, though all the charges being simply “dropped” (dismissed) is uncommon. Of course it is common for some of the other, remaining charges to be dropped in exchange for a guilty plea (e.g., a common scenario is that the defendant will plead guilty to, say, assault IV in exchange for dismissal of harassment, menacing, etc.).

Another scenario in which all the charges might be dropped is through civil compromise (for details and information, see our article, Civil Compromise in Oregon: Dismissal of Criminal Charges). But because District Attorney’s offices, as well as judges, are so aggressive in prosecuting domestic violence cases this will almost always be an uphill battle.

But even though getting charges “dropped” outright is rare, you should know domestic violence cases can be difficult for the state to carry its heavy burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, especially if there were no other witnesses besides the alleged victim or if the alleged victim is not, however, credible (believable). So trying the case may be advisable. On the other hand, for some clients, an Oregon domestic violence “diversion” program may be the better option for them. Upon successful completion of a rigorous “treatment-type” program lasting close to a year, the charges will be dropped. (For more information on this, see our forthcoming article, Oregon Domestic Violence Diversion and Deferred Sentencing Programs – What to Know).

The bottom line is that each domestic violence case has unique facts, and each client is uniquely situated. This is why it is necessary to confer with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney to receive answers and guidance for the best outcome in your specific case.

Daniel Woram has nearly 25 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney and representing those facing Oregon domestic violence charges in the Portland and Oregon City area, including Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah Counties. Contact Woram Law today for a confidential consultation and guidance on your case or that of a loved one.